High Sierra, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ida Lupino, and, of course, Pard, directed by Raoul Walsh, Warner Brothers, 1941
Funny how a character, or performer, in one film will lead you to remember about or to investigate another. Recently I viewed and reviewed a film in which Ida Lupino starred, a kind of off-beat sweet fluff working-class thing in its way from 1942 entitled, Moontide, where she played alongside French actor, Jean Gabon, as down-at-the-heels hash-slinger seeking a little white house with a picket fence. In that role there was no question of her being a femme fatale-type that guys get all, well, nervous over but just a reliable dame when the deal goes down, good or bad. A rare thing in crime noir world, especially with dames. Here in the noir classic, High Sierra, Ms Lupino picks up some of the down-at-the heels aspects of that role of hash-slinger as she plays along side Humphrey Bogart as that reliable shoe good guys and bad guys both use for their own purposes
Of course at this stage of his career Bogart was the king hell actor getting choice roles as the grizzled whatever from Sam Spade in Maltese Falcon to Captain Morgan in To Have Or Have Not so his presence is the driving force of the film. Ms. Lupino is just along for the ride, and to pick up the pieces when the deal goes south. Here Bogart plays the three-time loser, Roy Earle, just out of prison and heading west to get some fresh air, and maybe a new start. A new start in his old racket, armed robbery, big-time armed robbery. Along the way west he is befriended by an Okie-type family heading to California just like the Joads before them. But Roy gets hung up on the young daughter, some lame Janie, and helps fund her operation to fix her foot. Naturally Janie is nothing but ungrateful and spoils Roy’s rehabilitation program. Needless to say, also along the way, brought along by one of the confederates, Marie, the role Ms. Lupino plays, is the smitten dish- rag gangster’s girl who stands by her man, although why with Roy the way he treats her is not apparent on the face of it.
As always in these crime noir adventures, in the end, crime doesn’t pay. In this case the big-time resort heist is fouled up by the inside man and Roy his confederates have to go on the run. Moreover Roy and Marie are forced to split up. Law enforcement keeps crowding Roy. One thing a three-time loser knows, knows deep in his bones, if he goes back to prison he ain’t coming out. That knowledge drives the suspense of the last part of the film as Earle’s world becomes smaller and smaller. And, as they say, it’s a dog’s world that does him in at the end. Ya, but he was free, free like the starry nights that he had time to dream about in his prison nights. And Marie? Who knows but that some other heel may need a reliable shoe.